Friday, August 16, 2013

Love That New Book Smell

Recently I read a blog post by a writer
 Jill Smolinki,  who says she does not keep many books in her house. I’m stymied. I have never met a writer who wasn’t a bit of a book hoarder.
Granted some of us now use e readers. I read in any format: books, e books, clay tablets. When I was in college, living in a small apartment, I had stacks of books under my bed and inside my kitchen cabinets. Later, when my then boyfriend moved in, he explained the kitchen was for cooking; it was not a branch of the Columbus Public Library. He insisted we place food and dishes in the cupboards. But he and I were both big readers, so the stacks of books doubled. The only solution was to give some of them away.

I often reread books, so I tend to hold onto them. You can tell my favorites by the post-its sticking out from the pages, and the underlined passages. Being in the company of paper books soothes me the way others might be placated by sitting on a park bench on a sunny afternoon. Granted I love that, too, but nothing beats a rainy Saturday in a bookstore, relaxing in an overstuffed chair, poring through a stack of books to choose which will go home with you. But as the photo on Jill’s blog shows, one’s attachment to books can get out of hand without sufficient space.

On a design show once I saw how books can be used a decor by arranging them on the shelves by color. One of my living room shelves has books arranged by tones.
Don't they have a nice aesthetic? They blend well with the family photos. Books are family.

I recently spent ten days on business/vacation in Seattle, where I set aside time to visit Elliot Bay Books. I entered Nirvana: rows and rows of books, real ones, not a dressed up toy shop like Barnes & Noble. Call me old school, but this is what a bookstore is supposed to look like. I was on my way to SEA TAC and had dragged my rolling carry-on bag with me. A bookseller offered to hold it for me at the counter as I browsed. I looked for staff recommendations, and someone named Kenny has similar taste in books, so I picked up a few he liked. (I was hoping to meet him and talk books, but he was off that day.)

I spent two hours (and seventy dollars) inside the bookshop.  I picked out five books (one was a gift for Elizabeth.) Since my bag was full, I had to choose which books to ship home and allow myself one to read on the plane, and had the rest mailed home.

A few days after I got back from the Northwest, the package arrived from Elliot Bay. Inside were two carefully bundles wrapped in craft paper.. I took the parcels out of the box and set them on a bureau in my living room, where they sat for a day before I opened one. The other still remains an anticipated gift. Yes, it’s silly. I know which book is in there, but because it’s still wrapped, I look forward to the jolt I will get from studying its cover and contents.

There is an aesthetic to a paper book not found in digital format. I like the rough hewn paper, the fresh inky aroma of a new book. I like to flip back to the cover and study the cover art, or gaze at the author’s picture. Which can be done with an e reader, but not without jumping though a few fiery hoops. I kept forgetting the title of the book I just finished reading last night on my kindle, so each time I turned the device on I had to hit the home key to see which title appeared at the top. And forget about trying to find the cover illustration or the author pic.

All my kindle book smell the same.

Perhaps instead of new car smell, someone will come out with a fragrance of ‘new book smell’ we can spray around us as we clutch our e readers in our hands in bed at night.

For more on this see related post;

Happy Writing ( and Reading).